Learn how your restaurant can master digital marketing in four easy steps.
As a restaurant, awareness and reputation are two of the most important elements to fill your tables day in and day out.
Section 1: Google listings and reviews
Perhaps the number one most important thing a restaurant needs to have dialed in is a high-quality and complete Google My Business Account. This is how most people will find your restaurant. When searching for food close to their location or food of a specific cuisine, people often turn to Google - either search engine results or Google Maps - so make sure your profile is complete and accurate!
Consumers look at Google reviews now more than ever so make sure your reviews are visible and you are responding to all of them. Thank the positive reviews for coming in and offer to help the negative reviews have a better experience. Consider inviting your customers to leave a review of their experience by providing a reminder card and coupon along with their receipt. More good reviews turn into higher search rankings. Sincere negative review responses lead to service recovery.
In addition to reviews, hungry consumers also look at Google photos and your menu so make sure you have lots of high quality photos of a variety of dishes and make sure your menu is synced with Google, including prices. If you don’t have photos and a menu uploaded, many consumers won’t trust your restaurant and will simply move on to the next listing without even giving your restaurant a try.
Section 2: Setting up your Facebook page
Next, it’s time to focus on Facebook and Instagram. Again, consumers often choose where to dine largely based on word of mouth - including what they hear on social media. Do people say your food is good? What about the service? What does the food look like? How are your prices? And what about the location?
So, let’s get started!
Take reservations? Perfect!
Add a “book now” button to your Facebook account so hungry consumers can easily plan ahead and book their table without having to wait after they arrive.
Add your menu to Facebook.
Just like with Google, people like to be able to look over the menu before they commit to driving to your restaurant. Oftentimes, if a restaurant doesn’t have the menu listed, people skip it altogether and go somewhere else.
Add your cuisine to Facebook.
This will help people searching for a specific cuisine find your restaurant. Remember, if consumers can’t find you when they’re searching, then you’ve already lost. Make it easy to be found!
Add tags to your Facebook page such as “good for kids,” “fine dining,” “delivers.”
Like the other information listed above, these keywords help people narrow their search and find just the right restaurant for their needs and desires.
Reviews are everything!
Make sure they are visible on your page and respond to them quickly. Honesty and transparency is the best practice for both positive and negative reviews. Own the bad ones, but make amends and give the reviewer a reason to give you a second chance. Show appreciation for the good ones and invite them to return.
Add your story to your profile.
Like with anything people turn to social media for, building a relationship is key. Share details about your history, your passion, what makes your restaurant unique. Show your passion for food and their dining experience; give prospective diners a reason to connect with you.
Section 3: What to post
The question everyone asks is, “What do I post?” It can be tricky and time consuming to stay on top of content, but no need to fear! These tips will help you keep posting great content all year long.
Have a healthy mix of promotional content vs. engagement. Promotional content pitches specific aspects of your restaurant, such as daily specials, happy hours, specialty meals, etc. That’s great, but if you only post the sales pitch, you’re missing an opportunity for engagement and may actually push prospective customers away. Balance your promo content by sharing engaging content that sparks a conversation and attracts people to come in for a meal. Here are some examples of post ideas you can use to create an engaging mix of content on your social media feed.
High quality photos/videos of food and beverages
Higher quality photos and videos can offer a better social experience and can add to the value of your meals. Think about it, would you rather eat from a place that posts blurry cell phone photos or from a place that posts well edited, appetizing photos?
Mention weekly specials/happy hours
Everybody likes a deal and happy hours are a good way to give them one. In fact, for some people, that deal is just the incentive they need to visit your restaurant. So make sure they know about it! Keep it simple though. Something like, “Come in to XYZ restaurant tonight and receive a free appetizer when you order two entrees” is much more effective than “Come in tonight between 5 and 7 p.m. to get 25% off your entire meal.” People like free and incentives like a free appetizer with purchase won’t devalue your food when you aren’t having a sale.
Share the restaurant story
Hopefully you’ve already added your story to your profile, but now make sure people see it. Posting interesting tidbits about your history helps personalize your restaurant and connect with people who may or may not have dined with you in the past. Sharing your passion for the restaurant and food can be just the inspiring nudge someone needs to come give you a try.
Ask questions like, “How do you like your steak?” posted with a photo of one of your steak dishes
Asking questions is perhaps the best way to start a conversation and have a higher organic reach due to the tendencies of social algorithms. This is not a promotion! This is simply a way to chat with your customers and add some personality to your restaurant. Taco Bell, Slim Jim and Wendy’s are three of the best brands in the food industry at the engagement strategy.
Sharing photos of your restaurant’s unique features, both inside and out, can show your audience the atmosphere they can expect when they come in for a meal. This is especially important if you have a high-end restaurant or a location with unique visual qualities. Do you have patio seating or cool artwork on the walls? Is there a bar for while they wait or historical memorabilia?
Meet the staff
Posting a photo and a quick bio of a staff member every so often is a great way to add more personality to your business. People like personality and they like to visit places where they feel welcome and at home. You can start to accomplish this by letting people get to know your staff on social media and make a connection long before they ever walk through the door. Prospective diners are also more likely to visit if they feel a connection to your staff and location.
Section 4: ads
This is where it all starts coming together. You don’t need a huge budget to make advertising magic happen, but in 2019 and coming into 2020, social media has become a pay-to-play arena. If you want to keep your cooks in the kitchen, then your restaurant can’t afford not to play. Here’s how you can utilize social media ads to bring people into your restaurant.
Ads can be tricky and they take a lot of time and energy to build, maintain and perfect using the Facebook Ads Manager (use this for Instagram, too!). Oftentimes, businesses spend a little money to try an ad, but they either don’t give it enough time to play out or they don’t stay consistent and improve their ads over time. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are perfect social media ads. Be patient and persistent.
If you made it through this entire write-up, then you probably realize just how important it is to take your digital efforts seriously.
Being digital takes time. Two of the most common misconceptions for digital marketing are that digital marketing is easy and doesn't take much time. Although it's not hard to do each step, doing each step consistently well is tricky and can take years to master. Don't let that scare you though, because being digital is no longer a choice for businesses, especially small businesses, and even more especially restaurants.
If you want your delicious food to be served for years to come then make sure you are marketing yourself in a way that makes it possible for hungry people to find you and then give them a reason to come back with their friends.
Now you have the tools and the strategies that you need to be successful online, so let’s get to work making the changes you need to make it happen!